June 27, 2020
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The Subcontinental Menu
Illustration by Saahil
The Subcontinental Menu

Modi Hai To Mumkin Hai

A solitary cave, view of the Himalayas and no sound save the call of the mountains…the Rudra cave near Kedarnath offered all these for a princely Rs 3,000. There was one glitch though—there were no takers for the serene retreat after its launch in 2018, forcing the Uttarakhand administration to reduce its price to Rs 999. However, its fate changed drastically in May, when Modi spent a day meditating in the cave during the general elections. While the PM’s purported Midas touch has yet to show results for the economy, it has certainly boosted the popularity of the cave. There were 28 bookings in June, 10 in July and eight in August. With 19 dates for September and 10 for October already booked, nirvana seekers might soon have to contend with a long waitlist.

Epic Teenage Achievement

Travellers on British Airways can now enjoy a one-hour ret­elling of the Ramayana. And for that, they have the London-based teenage brothers, Ayur and Shreyas Pulle, to thank. It all began when Ayur’s predominantly Jewish school asked him to organise an Indian play, where he took on the role of Hanuman. That stoked his interest in the epic and inspired him to come up with a retelling of the fascinating story. Along with his brother, he created an hour-long audiobook, which has become a hit with British audiences. British Airways licensed it for in-flight entertainment till 2028 and The Times declared it as one of the “best audiobooks of 2017”. There are now Hindi and Telugu editions as well; and another Telugu version read by visually challenged students in Hyderabad is in the works.

Built Over 42 Years, Ruined In A Day

On September 28, the people of Giridih, Hazaribagh and Bokaro districts finally got the irrigation canal they had been waiting for since 1977. During that time, the cost of the project ballooned from Rs 12 crore to Rs 2,500 crore. But just a day after the chief minister inaugurated it with great fanfare, there was a breach in the canal, leading to flooding in many villages. Lest you blame the administration for corruption or inefficiency, they have helpfully identified the culprits—rats. “The initial probe suspected ‘rat holes’ causing damage to the canal,” read the government’s statement. Repair works are on; we rec­kon the administration will have the canal ready by 2061 or so.

Pugilists, Lose Your Paunch!

As most people who have joined a gym or tried a diet will attest, losing weight is a struggle. More so if you work with the Nepal Army, where not being svelte could cost you your job. The army has denied promotions to three personnel and not allowed four of them to join UN missions abroad because of their ample proportions. It categorises the corpulence of its corporals into four groups—obese, overweight, normal and underweight—and provides three months to three years for them to achieve their ideal weight. If they fail to do so, they lose out on benefits. And if the medical board declares them unfit, they are given the marching orders.

Winning Is Not An End For Him

Sometimes, dynastic politics crosses swords with a merit-based system. Among the 28 BJP candidates who swept the Lok Sabha polls in Madhya Pradesh, K.P. Yadav, arguably, was the biggest winner—he defeated the seemingly invincible Jyotiraditya Scindia in Guna. The first-term MP now finds himself at the receiving end of barbs from leaders of the BJP’s MP unit. On a recent visit to the BJP state headquarters in Bhopal, Yashodhara Raje—Jyotiraditya’s aunt—walked up to Yadav and com­plained that he had stopped responding to her calls. Raje’s Shivpuri assembly segment falls under Guna parliamentary constituency. Yadav snapped at the erstwhile Gwalior royal, telling her that she, too, had refused to answer his calls when he wanted her to campaign for him in the LS polls against Jyotiraditya.

Game Of Drones

It’s not just the Mullaperiyar waters that Kerala and Tamil Nadu are fighting over. Their latest bone of contention is a drone that TN flew at a ‘water-release function’ at Periyar reservoir in Thekkady. As Kerala has banned drones in the Periyar tiger reserve, a forest official sought an explanation from Tamil authorities. “We will respond to the com­­munication from the Kerala forest department. There is no violation,” was their prosaic response. With tempers flying high, drones are not alone in the airspace on state borders.

Republicans Landed With A Thud

Newspaper deadlines are notoriously stiff, known to prompt emb­arrassing errors of editorial commission. Yet the contretemps to hit Prajatantra, the Odia daily run by the family of BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab, had a touching cavalier air about it.  The entire nation was anxiously waiting for Chandrayan 2’s lander to execute a soft landing on the moon. It was late, well past the paper’s deadline. So, bursting with certitude, they presumed the lander had landed, splashed the news on the front page and went home. It was the Prajatantra staff who made a hard landing in thick soup the next day.

Enter, The Bone Collector

The sordid tales of dictators, who ruled large parts of Latin America till a few years back, never seems to get over.

The Paraguay government has launched an investigation after human remains were found at a property once owned by former right-wing dictator Alfredo Stroessner. During his 35-year authoritarian rule, 423 people were killed and gone missing. Squatters digging for hidden treasure stumbled upon human remains suspected to be the bones of people who went missing during Stroessner’s rule. The discovery has set off a nationwide outrage and forced an investigation.

Maria Stella Caceres, director of the Museum of Memories—an institution dedicated to exhibiting the crimes of the Stroessner dictatorship—told The Guardian, “The victims aren’t just the people who disappeared, but their families and communities too. This is a crime against humanity that is ongoing and won’t come to an end until the remains are found, identified and given back”.

Authorities said the probe would ascertain if the bones belong to Stroessner’s victims.

Stroessner’s 35-year regime was an oppressive one when scores went missing. The human remains could belong to those killed during his bloody rule.

Stroessner oversaw the longest dictatorship in the modern history of South America, from a military coup in 1954 until 1989, when his longtime collaborator Gen Andres Rodriguez removed him from power. He died in exile in Brazil in 2006. His dictatorship was characterised by violent oppression of opposition groups. These were revealed in 1992, when about 7,00,000 documents collated by the regime’s security forces —known as the “Archives of Terror”—were discovered in a locked room. They provided a record of the regime’s routine use of kidnap and torture. They also yielded evidence of Paraguay’s participation in the US-led Operation Condor—a programme that saw military dictatorships collaborate to violently suppress leftist opposition across South America.

The political opposition was not the only victim of Stroessner. The LGBT community, indigenous people and hundreds of young girls groomed for sexual abuse were its victims too.

Other than those executed or “disappeared”, 18,722 people were tortured and 3,470 forced into exile, though bodies of only 37 have been found so far.

Though a nationwide campaign was launched by family members of victims, the current president, Mario Abdo Benitez—the son of Stroessner’s secretary—has failed to adequately fund investigations. “Neither the current government, nor the one that preceded it, nor the one that preceded that has been concerned about the fate of those that disappeared,” said activist Martin Almada .

Illustrations by Saahil; Text Curated by Alka Gupta

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